Ides of March


cesar_icon.gif monica2_icon.gif

Scene Title Ides of March
Synopsis They're an important tradition for Cesar and Monica.
Date March 15, 2017

Yamagato Park

Dumplings and Beer Night has become something of a tradition by this point. Monica's first night back in town— or the first she calls Cesar on— and then end up here in the shadow of the Yamagato building, at a little mom-and-pop place that profits off people who work nearby. A lot of people work nearby. Including Monica! Sometimes. By the time Cesar gets there, she's already gotten them a table. Her favorite table. The proprietors like her, as she tips generously and buys a lot of food from them, so they're happy to accommodate her when she's in town. Not than anyone has explained this to Cesar, but the clues are all there.

She's dressed down, which is no shock for these nights out. There's always the option that the night might end in movies and going home. And always the option that going home will be postponed until the next morning. Either way, she seems to think it's important to dress without expectation.

Who else carries an appreciation of tradition but Cesar. The man swings open the door to the mom and pop dumpling shop and has to duck a little under the lowered door frame out of habit, pushing through the fabric curtains that hang over the doorway. Eyes look immediate to the favorite table, a smile spreads out on Cesar’s mouth as he lifts a hand to greet the proprietors too. They like them both; when Cesar and Monica are in the house, hands get busy making more dumplings. The man appreciates it for sure.

“Hey you,” he greets Monica as he plops himself into a chair across from her, barely an arm’s length of distance between them. “Lookin’ good, lookin’ que linda.” The man’s also dressed down, but she’ll notice he’s groomed up. There’s an extra bit of sensory input… a spritz of a cologne, or maybe an enticing aftershave. There’s a glance away, briefly, to the small bar that they’ll get their beers from, then it’s back to Monica. “So, tell me, what was it like? Meet anybody special?” The tone is always a teasing one, easy and open for her to go with the process of unloading, unpacking her latest adventure.

Monica always notices, taking it all in with a crooked smile as he comes over to the table. "Hey," she says back, her smile widening for the compliment. "I'm jetlagged, but thank you," she says dryly. She probably is, but if it bothers her, it's hard to say. Maybe she's just used to it by now. Or used to sleeping odd hours in odd places from her former life. "I ordered the usual," she says, which probably means that hands are indeed busy in this place. But when he starts asking questions, she gets a gentler smile. "Japan in cherry blossom season? It was hard to leave," she says playfully, "The people were very kind. Welcoming. And patient, since I don't understand a word of the language. I should probably work on that." She probably will not, though. "Nobody I'd call special, though. Unless you mean people willing to contribute large amounts of money to charity, there were a few of those." She lets out a sigh there, letting out work-related tension before she looks back to him. "How's New York been?"

First, a knowing smirk when she mentions having ordered the usual. This is important. It’s tradition. And then, an appreciative ‘mm’ issues out of the man for her mention of sakura season, despite Cesar’s never having seen as much with his own eyes. “I think I’m imagining you in a kimono right now, and I gotta say? You look good. Charming. Bet you got a lot of interested folks chatting you up while you were over there.” He looks up to thank the lone staff server of the mom-and-pop for their beers as it arrives, and reaches over to pick up his drink for a sip. “New York? Resilient as always. They’re working on fixing up infrastructure still, scheduled brown and blackouts, you know. The usual.” He leans forward, cradling the pint glass in hand and turning it a few twists. Then he looks up, a sober expression pushed away for a smirk. “Boring, without you around.” She’s always got a story. He’s just a SESA agent. And a newish one at that.

"I hate to ruin your mental image, but I didn't wear any kimono," Monica says with a chuckle. "And most of the chatting was about work. Or my arm. It was a big hit." But that's hardly the same thing as getting chatted up. If it happened, she's keeping it to herself. She thanks the server and picks up her beer, too, for a sip. "Long way to go," she says, as far as infrastructure, "we'll get there. We're New York." His glass gets a glance, and then her expression turns more curious. A little concerned, even. "No one to entertain you, huh?" she says to his compliment, her tone carrying a tease. But she knows the cue when he lobs it her way. Something amazing she saw or did, that is also tradition. "I went to one of the festivals. Drinks and food, songs and dancing, and watching the blossoms. It's all about how fragile life is, you know? They only blossom for a couple weeks and the flowers fall off if you look at them too hard. A wind would blow and you'd watch them scatter out over the grass, over the street, over you. You're supposed to be reminded that nothing lasts, but that it's beautiful because it's fleeting." She pauses there, her head tilting a little. "I think," she adds with a more self-deprecating chuckle.

If there is a smear on the mental image, Cesar merely taps his temple with a finger and notes with a light click of his tongue in turn, “Nope, you’re too late. Got that one locked down.” His eyes shine with humor as he takes another drink, nodding firmly to ‘We’re New York’. His expression then turns to a mock-sad frown, and he inhales dramatically. “Man, and all of that partying, too?” Cesar sighs loudly, again mock-dramatically, setting down his glass. Who’s got a case of some FOMO, here. “That is beautiful, though,” he comments to the anecdote of her Japan adventure, returning to a smile that’s genuinely happy for her. “They should be doing something here too, I think I heard.” Here being Yamagato Park. “They’ve probably got something big planned for the cherry blossom season out here too, at least, you’d think.” Then he brightens. “‘Ey, if they do? We should go. And you can show me all of what I missed out on.”

Monica laughs, shaking her head a little before she looks back over at him, taking in that humor with a warmer smile. She reaches her hand over to rest over his. Because she might have missed him a little. Japan is beautiful, but the culture shock is high for a girl from New Orleans. "They should be. I'll take you. Maybe teach you how to use chopsticks, finally," she says, teasing. "I'll make sure there's a translator on site," she adds, dryly. She's not the only one in the company that needs it, but it is a small percentage. "I'll find out a date, let you know." The server brings out a few dishes and Monica leans back again to make room for them all. It's a small table, but they know just home much can fit there.

Turning his palm over so his and hers touch, Cesar squeezes her fingers lightly, his smile resting easily. It only turns crooked with her tease. “I’ll have you know I can totally use chopsticks just fine,” claims the man who uses chopsticks like an extended set of skewers rather than their intended method. One would think with all the dumplings they’ve eaten here, he would learn to not elicit small pained glances from the staff when they watch him pack the little wrapped up meat pockets away. But no. “But yeah, we got some catching up to do.” When the first dishes arrive, he releases her hand so they can eat.

There’s actually much to catch up on for Cesar’s life anyway - his family in Connecticut, his sister Asea in nursing school. His mother, in particular, wondering where her grandbabies are at. That’s always a bit of a joke between them, given their ‘status’. “But what she said, it does bring up something else,” he says, setting down his chopsticks and picking up his drink. With a lean back on his chair to give a moment’s pause, he quirks a brow up and asks, “Do you know what day it is?” There’s anticipation in his tone, but nothing expectant or obligating.

"You use chopsticks like an American," Monica says with a laugh. She, of course, can use them flawlessly, which earns her more appreciative glances than he gets. Even if she learned the easy way. She picks hers up, even, to reach for the food. Because she's hungry. "Yes we do," she says, since she's been gone for weeks and weeks and more happened than just festivals and kimonos. For him, too. And she even seems interested in his life here, in his family dramas and the ever-present request for grandchildren. It gets a shake of her head, as always, but amused. Sorry, Mama Diaz, it isn't in Monica's Five Year Plan.

Her eyebrow lifts, though, when he sets his chopsticks down and asks his question. It's probably clear that she doesn't know what he's alluding to, given that her head tilts and she reaches for another dumpling. "March. Fifteenth. Is this a trick question?" she asks, suspicious, but playfully so.

“A proud American,” Cesar appends, laughing and reaching with said bamboo sticks to snag - or attempt to snag - another dumpling off the plate. It takes him a few tries, mangling the flour wrapper slightly, but he manages to shovel it onto his plate first before bringing it up to take a bite. A triumphant one, in spite of all the manhandling he had to do. “It’s March 15th, yep,” he affirms, nodding and chewing, letting her think it over a little bit longer. Then he supplies, “Happy Friendiversary.” The man looks directly to her, a bigger smile filled with fondness and warm affection framed in his features. “It’s been a year since I tripped over that pile of garbage and made myself out the fool, you know?” After all, how could he forget. “Which means really, we should celebrate tonight. Do something crazy, maybe. Something… different?” Though what, he doesn’t yet suggest, letting her weigh in.

Monica watches him try to pick up his next dumpling, the whole show seeming to be endearing rather than frustrating to her, even if the server might be dying a little inside. When he supplies the significance of the date, Monica ahhs quietly, her smile turning crooked for a moment before she chuckles. "How could I forget that pile of garbage," she says, teasing. She might be watching him a little, too, for some sign of him trying to pull something that might force an awkward conversation. But she doesn't look worried. Not with beer and dumplings to keep busy with. "Something crazy, huh? You finally taking me up on learning parkour?" That's a joke, but she's up for something a little different. "Did you have something in mind?"

“Mmmhm, something,” Cesar remarks around the swallow of another dumpling, chasing it with a sip of beer before he sets his drink back down and looks at Monica. His expression shifts to one slightly testing of the waters, tinted with apprehension on the edges of his words. “How’s about going back to your place tonight,” suggests the man. “It’s been a year since we met, and I haven’t even gotten past the doorman.” There isn’t one, of course, since the state-of-the-art building is electronically monitored. Finding his nervousness tickling at him inwardly, Cesar reaches for his drink to cover after he’s dropped the proposal, so to speak.

Sipping her beer and plucking up a dumpling, Monica waits for his idea to present itself. The question makes her dumpling slip from her chopsticks, plopping onto her plate with a plop. Which then makes her laugh. There's nervousness in that sound, too, and she doesn't bother to cover it.

"What, did you forget to clean up today?" she asks, the joke coming out first, giving herself time to process. Time to think. But she picks the dumpling back up, focusing on that before she looks back over at him. "I mean…" Cybernetic fingers drum on the table and she lets out a sigh. "It isn't that I don't want you there, but it isn't like my apartment is the apartment I would… have picked for myself. I mean, it's rent free so I wasn't gonna pass it up. But I used to live out of a friend's closet, sleeping on rooftops, so— I just don't want you to get the wrong idea." Yeah.

Cesar lets out a short snort of laughter, a hand coming up to pre-empt any untoward spray of his drink from the sight of her dropping of the dumpling. The joke about his apartment’s cleanliness gets a more wry smile, as he sees the stalling tactic and waits it out. His strategy works as she drums at the table, his eyes flicking down to those robotic fingers. But when she goes on, he smoothes down his smile to a more eased expression. A reassuring one. “Hey,” he utters more quietly to grab at her worry, “all that doesn’t matter, what you did before or where you were then. I mean, the fact you got a place rent-free is nice too. But where you stay at ain’t who you are.” He leans forward, reaching with a hand to cover the robotic one, his eyes meeting hers. But then in a moment of levity, he adds, “Or you just want to keep your sweet digs to yourself?”

Eyes flick over to where his hand touches hers. It's not flesh and blood but she can feel that touch as if it were. And then Monica looks up at him, his words getting a softer smile. "Trust me, you could take up half that apartment and it would still feel like I had it to myself." It's a joke, but one rooted in the truth. As he's soon to find out. "Let's get this to go," she adds, apparently deciding they're going to see it now if they're going at all.

Twenty Minutes Later

And it turns out, Monica wasn't exaggerating much about the size of her place. It's all clean lines and open space, glass and grey giving the impression of a museum more than a home. The kitchen is where the first sign of life is, where there are marks of the woman who lives here. She drops the food off on the counter, then turns his way. "I assume you'll agree to the tour before the second course," she says with a grin. But she takes his hand and leads him out into the hall that leads to the main room. Her suitcases are still sitting there against a wall. She didn't get far with them after landing. At the end of the entrance hall is a living room type space. Seating and an oversized TV and bits of tech and luxury sprinkled here and there. But the real treat comes when they move to a smaller sitting room. Facing east, one can easily see the room warm with morning sun and perfect for coffee and breakfast. Across one wall is a large bird cage. And a large bird to go with it.

"Moni's home!" Foggy makes a chirping noise from the corner of the cage. It's a mimic of other birds, but it gets a chuckle from Monica.

"And Foggy's home," she says back, like a practiced call and response.

The sack of stacked dumplings-to-go sends a pleasant wafting of delicious smells the whole way to the apartment, and there are a few moments where Cesar tries to get at the boxes while Monica’s carrying it, resulting in a playful game of keep away that whiles away the travel time to the apartment. Upon finally getting the chance to enter her personal living space, Cesar whistles his admiration. He’s impressed. “Coño, you weren’t joking around,” he says as his gaze immediately sweeps the main room, moving from suitcases to living room. It might say something that he hasn’t gone straight for the material items in the luxury that surrounds them, but sticks with Monica as she takes him around.

The man’s whistle is promptly echoed after a few seconds pause from Foggy’s cage when they get to the smaller sitting room. His head perks up at the sight of the large parrot, at the fact that it talks. And maybe that Monica talks back. “You got a bird? When did you— ” he releases her hand, stepping closer to the cage. He and Foggy exchange assessing stares, the overall appearance looking comical from Monica’s angle.

Foggy tests Cesar with a series of R2-D2 boops and whistles. Cesar grins in recognition of the sound effects, and turns back to Monica. “You taught him Artoo?” he laughs, pointing to the bird who seems to reply to the prompt by imitating said trashcan-shaped robot. Cesar spies the bird again, exchanging glances from one dark eye to the next. Then, he examines the extensive cage. “Man, you got a bigger apartment than me up in here,” he comments to the parrot, “maybe if I’m lucky she’ll let me stay with you, ‘ey? We can be roomies.” He half-turns, casting a teasing glance back over his shoulder to Monica.

Monica chuckles at the exchange of stares and whistles (and boops), but she seems content to let them interact without her help. "Of course. He likes Star Wars as much as I do." Star Wars prompts Foggy to imitate the sounds of a space battle, X-Wings flying by, lasers firing. "Maybe more than I do," she adds with a broad smile. There's no denying that she spoils the bird, so she can only shake her head lightly at the comment about the cage's size. When he glances back, Cesar might catch Monica signalling Foggy with a cut this off at the neck gesture.

"No way, no way," Foggy says, and that goes on repeat a few times while Monica laughs.

"You have to watch yourself with this one," she says as she comes up next to Cesar, "he's smart. Smarter than your average tax collector." And then her attention turns to the bird. "Foggy," she says with a point in his direction, "Moni," she says, gesturing to herself, "Cesar," she adds, pointing to him last. She repeats it a couple times, but Foggy joins in before long, chanting the names. But she stops, and gives the bird a few tests to make sure he's got it.

Foggy walks across a branch to get closer to Cesar before he calls the man's name without prompting.

Laughing with the sudden symphony of space sound effects, Cesar folds his arms across his chest, leaning back to take it all in. The bird. The cage. Monica. He watches alright, observing as she trains the parrot on identifying the man. “Let it not be said birds are bird brains,” he intones with a smile and an awe for the bird’s quick pick up of the sound of his name. As Foggy walks closer, Cesar unfolds his arm and holds out his fist for the bird to… sniff? Peck? Obviously he’s not trained for animals. But he doesn’t even flinch when Foggy reaches out to lightly nip at the man’s fist, exploring the texture of the agent’s hand with beak and talon.

“I never would’ve picked you for a bird mom,” he says over to Monica, a crooked smile quirking. “Although… now I know what you really are. You travel all over, charming people and taking their money. You’ve got a parrot. You are most definitely a pirate.”

"Not my bird, anyway," Monica says, because her bird is the best bird, obviously. She takes her turn watching, curious as to how Foggy will take to him, perhaps. "Don't try to pet him," she points out, since Cesar looks a little lost, "He doesn't like it most of the time." But they seem to be getting on well enough, so Monica does a round to check on the cage's supply of water and food, and to move some of the toys around to make them easier to get to and such things.

"A bird mom?" she asks with a chuckle. Nevermind what she was just doing. She lifts an eyebrow over at him as he goes on, though. When he gets to the end of his accusation, she barks out a laugh. "I don't have an eyepatch, though. Or a boat. Those are kind of important for a pirate."

Foggy’s propensity to communicate to Monica’s arm also comes out when she moves it and the parrot imitates the sound of the gears and whirrs with precision accuracy. Cesar looks amused, although thusly forewarned does not try to pet the bird. “He hasn’t said ‘shiver me timbers’ yet or ‘your gold or your life’ yet, either,” points out the man for not-a-pirate indicators, “But yes, bird mom. You’re a good one.” He comes over to her side once she’s done fixing up the cage and stepping out of it, looking over the job done and nodding before looking back to her. “Did you take him with you? Or you got someone looking out for the feathery guy?” It’s something of an implied invitation to the questions, made more explicit when he adds, “I mean, if you’re ever out of town and need a bird-sitter.” A beat. “A house-sitter.”

Because look, these are are some suh-weet digs. He laughs again, leaning over to put an arm around her shoulders as he looks around the “small” sitting room which is probably the size of his apartment alone.

"Birds are easier than kids." Monica looks over at him when he comes over, her head tilting a little to look up at him. "I did take him. When I go on these long trips, he comes with me. The shorter ones, he stays here. My downstairs neighbor feeds him." Which is probably an understatement of how Marlowe takes care of Foggy. "But if you're angling to spend a weekend or two here," she says with a gesture to the apartment at large, "wouldn't you rather do that while I'm here?"

When his arm moves around her, she reaches up to touch his cheek, just a gentle touch. But it comes with the impression that she might have a mind to turn this night into something that matches that first one. To commemorate, obviously.

Watching Foggy climb around the new arrangement of toys and food and watering dishes could be a fascinating study on the bird’s behavior. But with that soft touch to his cheek, Cesar turns his attention away from the cage and looks back to Monica with a wry sort of grin to her query. “I get the feeling I’m going to spend a lot more time here, yep,” he says, the grin turning quite crooked.

He turns, his other arm moving to accompany the one already around her by settling on her robotic arm at first before traveling around to cup at her waist. Cesar leans forward over her a little more, his dark eyes steady on hers. “The tour’s ended,” he ‘announces’ in a low, growing suggestive tone, “And I believe it’s time for second course.” And with that he starts her on a backwards walk out of the sitting room to move on to a different, less spectated part of the large, luxurious living space.

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